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Better Bristol 2017 – How a mix of crowdfunding & match-funding can support investment in local projects

In April 2017, Bristol Green Capital Partnership invited the people of Bristol to join us in backing positive local projects that aim to help work towards a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all.

Our recent match-fund campaign used a crowdfunding platform to disburse a one-off legacy fund of £45,000 to inclusive and sustainable community projects, catalysing an additional £64,000 of funding from the crowd. We commissioned an independent evaluation report, to share outcomes from a campaign which set out to support local projects and explore the value of a crowdfunding and match-funding model for dispersing grants in a city context.

We feel that the evaluation demonstrates that the model used delivered both financial and non-financial outcomes far beyond what would have been possible with a traditional grant-making process, and through this has made a significant contribution to Bristol and to the Partnership’s vision of “a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all”. The report highlights a number of useful recommendations and lessons for any future funding campaigns, to help ensure that such a model is as impactful and accessible as possible for diverse organisations and groups across the city.

Outcomes

16 projects were ultimately able to fund their projects as a result of the Better Bristol campaign – collectively securing a total of £108,906 of funding. These included projects on a range of issues including community growing, fuel poverty, eco-self builds, education and mentoring for young people, tackling waste through re-use and sustainable fashion.  Out of these 16, 11 projects reached their target as a direct result of receiving match-funding from the Partnership; 1 project received a one-off grant for demonstrating commitment to equality and inclusion in its aims; and 4 projects received 100% of their funds from crowdfunding alone. 6 projects that set up a crowdfunding page did not secure any funding as they did not meet their target in an ‘all or nothing’ crowdfunding model. Overall, £108,906 was invested in projects that aimed to tackle environmental challenge and achieve impact in a fair and inclusive way.

“We took part in order to move our project to Repair and Restore Bristol Harbourside Reed Bed on to a more ambitious and sustainable footing. The requirements of the crowd fund campaign were quite daunting but as soon as the first pledges started coming it all started to work, as we’d been told to expect at the training session. Participating gave us the impetus to raise our public profile, which has led to more people knowing about what our aims are and even getting new volunteers. The campaign has brought us closer together as a team too.” Sarah Morris, On behalf of Friends of Harbourside Reed Bed

“Being part of Better Bristol has been such a positive experience for us. The funding we’ve received will give Redcatch Community Garden the kick-start it needs to really get our project off the ground. It’s also given us confidence that we have our community well and truly behind us.” Tina Badley, Redcatch Community Garden

“It has been an enlightening and exhausting experience, although am looking forward to putting the money into action and transforming more lives at the grassroots! Thank you Green Capital, your support will help create social change across many communities in Bristol, at a time where financial support for youth & community projects is needed most.” Ben Carpenter, Youth Moves

“It was fantastic to be able to share our story and allow people to be part of the journey by investing in the project. We received so much positive feedback and were offered many new opportunities we weren’t expecting. We also got to see what other incredible projects people of Bristol are creating. What a fabulous and exciting way to find those who believe in a sustainable future.”  Leigh-Anne Treadwell, Make-It-Work

The evaluation indicates that participation in the Better Bristol match-fund helped organisations build their skills and their profile, contributing to the greater financial sustainability of organisations and their valuable work in Bristol. Projects which participated in the campaign reported a number of non-financial benefits, including raised profile, increase in membership and other supporters, increase in support from other funders and increased capacity to fundraise from crowdfunding in future.

Participants reported a desire to stay connected and involved with Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and over half stated that they would be likely to apply to a similar campaign again. Overall, participants found the training, coaching and support from the Partnership and Crowdfunder to be positive – with friendly and responsive help, feedback and guidance throughout. Although 13 organisations who attended early training workshops did not progress their project to launch on 1 June, this was primarily due to lack of capacity – and many reported an intention to make use of the training they received for future crowdfunding campaigns.

Recommendations

The report recommended a number of adjustments that could be made to the model in future to extend the reach and accessibility of the campaign, maximise the opportunity for success, and ensure participating projects can participate or compete on an equal and transparent footing. These include:

  • Increase time between advertising the fund and submission deadlines, as well as between application approval and launch of the campaign.
  • Ensure guidance is also available in online support materials specifically for small voluntary groups without such things as social media channels, a website, existing video content or a bank account
  • Provide or signpost participants to tools and support for setting up social media accounts and websites.
  • Use controls in the online crowdfunding platform to limit large donations for a pre-defined period of time, as well as anonymous donations over a certain size.
  • Consider having separate allocations of match-funding for organisations over and under a specific size (defined by turnover and/or number of employees).
  • Consider distributing match-funding over a longer period of time with several rounds of application and approval, possibly with individual rounds dedicated to organisations of a specific type or size.

Read a full list of recommendations in the Better Bristol 2017 Evaluation Report

View all Better Bristol funded projects here.

Read more crowdfunding stories and stay up to date on progress from Better Bristol projects here.

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